Thesis Statements and the Drafting Process Help (page 2)
What Is Drafting?
To draft means to create a preliminary version or rough form of a text. Preliminary and rough are the key words. Like brainstorming, drafting is most effective when you allow yourself to write imperfectly. Unless you're writing a timed essay exam, such as for the SAT or ACT, your essay will take final shape after revising. (And even the graders of those timed essays exams make it clear that they're looking for a "polished rough draft," not a perfect piece of writing.) The point of drafting is to get your ideas on paper within the framework you created in the planning stages, but without the pressure of trying to get it exactly right.
Instead of staring at a blank piece of paper, at your outline, and then back at the paper, get writing. It's especially important not to waste time trying to write an eloquent, attention-grabbing introduction. The best introductions are typically written after the body of the essay, when your ideas and the manner in which you reveal them are on paper. That's why the lesson on introductions doesn't appear until after the lessons on writing good paragraphs and providing support for your ideas and assertions.
Tips for the Drafting Process
Use the following guidelines to help keep your ideas flowing during the drafting stage:
- Keep your thesis statement and assignment in front of you at all times. This will keep you focused on what your essay needs to do.
- Follow your outline, but be flexible. Don't feel obligated to stick to your original plan if, as you're writing, you come up with a better order of paragraphs, or a new idea.
- Save your drafts. Whether they're on paper or on the computer, keep a copy of every version of your essay. (That means, on the computer, you will need to make a copy of your draft into a new document before revising.) You may find that an idea you thought you weren't going to use will have a place in your essay after all.
Drafting a Thesis Statement
While you don't need to start with an introduction, you should have a thesis statement before you begin drafting. Your thesis is the main idea of your essay—it succinctly reveals what you're going to say. In Lesson 5, you learned how to narrow your topic and formulate a tentative thesis. Now, you'll either commit to that thesis, or revise it into a workable thesis statement.
Here are a few more considerations:
- A good thesis statement makes a strong, clear assertion that conveys your attitude about the subject.
- A good thesis statement strikes the right balance between too broad and too narrow. It needs to be focused enough to encompass just enough material to cover within the spatial confines of the essay, and narrow enough to include enough material that can be supported by evidence.
- A thesis statement is not simply an announcement of the subject matter. You need to tell readers what you are going to say about your subject.
- A thesis statement is not simply a question or list of questions. You still need to tell your reader what idea you are going to develop in your essay (the answer to one or more of your questions).
- A thesis statement is not simply a statement of fact. It must be an assertion that conveys your ideas about the subject.
Where Your Thesis Statement Belongs
While there is no rule that states exactly where you should place your thesis statement, because it helps your reader by identifying your purpose, it should appear within the first or second paragraph of your essay. You want your reader to know before they read too much what idea you will develop. Think of it this way: Imagine someone you don't know calls you on the phone. After she introduces herself, you expect that she'll tell you why she's calling. What does she want? If she doesn't tell you, you could become annoyed, suspicious, and even angry. You deserve the courtesy of an explanation, and so does your reader. That explanation is your thesis statement.
While you should have a good working thesis statement to lead you through your draft, it's important to remember that even that statement is a draft. It's your preliminary version, and as you write, you may find you need to revise it. Be flexible. It makes more sense to revise it based on what you've written (if the writing works) than to revise a decent draft to fit your thesis.
Drafts are rough versions of your essay—a chance to get ideas on paper so you can shape them into an effective essay. To get started, draft a thesis statement that makes a strong assertion about your subject. Be sure it's focused and avoid simply making an announcement, asking a question or stating a fact.
Tips on Overcoming Writer's Block
- Don't know what to say? Try one of the brainstorming techniques described in Lessons 3 and 4.
- Don't know where to begin? Create an outline. This will help you put your ideas in order and give you a road map to follow.
- Can't think of the right way to start? Skip the introduction and instead jump into the body of your essay. Once you know where you're going and what you have to say, come back and create an effective introduction.
The College Admissions Essay Difference
Admissions officers typically spend about three to four minutes on each application essay. They're not bound by any rule that says they have to read each one from start to finish. The best way to guarantee a full read and a better chance that your essay will help the admissions officer put your application in the "yes" pile is to hook the reader, and only gradually reveal your subject. If you hand your subject, and your treatment of that subject, to him or her in the opening paragraph, you're providing a great reason to stop reading.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Thesis Statements and the Drafting Process Practice.
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